How to Tailor Your Activities For Senior Pets | Cats, Dogs, Hamsters, Rabbits + More!

As our pets age, their need for activity and ability to participate change. This requires us pet parents to adjust their daily routines and exercises. Just like us, as senior pets age, they may develop mobility issues, have decreased energy and other age-related health issues. 

To ensure your senior pets stays active and healthy, you should explore suitable activities - taking their age, mobility issues and overall well-being into consideration.

Senior Dogs

For senior dogs, low impact exercises that are gentle on ageing joints are best. Muscle tone can be maintained by taking short, leisurely walks.  Allowing your dog to take in the smells during their walk is not mental stimulating, experts tell us that just 20 minutes of sniffing is equivalent to an hour-long walk in terms of enrichment for your dog.

Swimming is also another great activity , especially for dogs with mobility issues. Its low impact and can be very refreshing if the weather is hot. Be mindful of where your dog swims, beaches with waves and undercurrents may be difficult for your senior dog – instead consider flat areas of water or puppy pools if you’re lucky enough to live near one.

There are also a number of low impact interactive games, such as gentle tug of war or hide and seek with treats – these activities keep their minds sharp and provide a great source of enjoyment.

Senior Cats

Senior cats seem to sleep more and be more sedentary in their senior years so we need to find ways to keep them healthy and active.

We know cats love interactive toys - but senior cats can benefit from ones that promote gentle movement and mental stimulation. Engage their natural hunting instincts with toys that mimic prey, such as feather wands or laser pointers. These will encourage play without requiring strenuous physical activity. You may also need to adjust any perches or high places they access at home to avoid jumps from heights.

Puzzle feeders or treat dispensing toys are also provide mental enrichment whilst encouraging slow, deliberate movement.

Senior Hamsters

One of the first signs of old age in a hamster is decreased levels of exercise.

Providing a variety of safe and stimulating toys within their habitat is essential - an exercise wheel is a simple and effective way to encourage gentle exercise.

Hamsters natural way of making a home is to burrow - so you could also look at setting up an obstacle course with tunnels and ramps that encourage exploration and burrowing.

Chew safe toys made from materials such as wood or cardboard helps to keep their teeth and gums healthy and provide them mental stimulation.

Senior Rabbits

An opportunity for gentle exercise and mental stimulation is good for your senior rabbit - and having a large, secure enclosure is the perfect way to ensure they have the space to hop and explore.

Fill this space with interactive toys such as boxes filled with hay or tunnels they can run through. This will keep them physically and mentally engaged.

Hiding treats around the enclosure also encourages their foraging behaviour and stimulate their senses.

Senior Birds

Mental stimulation is the key to maintaining the cognitive health of senior birds.

Provide them with a variety of toys such as puzzles feeders, bells and mirrors to prevent boredom and encourage active play.

Social and mental simulation is also valuable. Spending time together outside the cage either perched on your shoulder or a bird-safe play gym is not only healthy for your bird but will strengthen the bond you have whilst creating wonderful memories.

Senior Mice/Rats

Rats and mice are naturally inquisitive no matter what their age. Activities that engage these natural instincts will be beneficial to senior rats and mice.

Bored rats are much more likely to perform undesirable behaviour like overeating or squabbling with their housemates. Keep them physically active by providing tunnels, hiding spots and climbing structures they can explore.

Scattering feed or treats throughout their enclosure can also provide mental stimulation.

Senior Snakes

Senior snakes will have slower reflexes, demonstrate general sluggish behaviour and may have reduced mobility - but they can still benefit from environmental enrichment.

Providing them a variety of climbing branches and hiding spots within their enclosure ensures they have a spots to exhibit natural behaviours and allows them opportunity to explore at their own “old-age” pace.

For an extra sensory experience or treat, introduce new scents or textures – this will not only provide sensory stimulation, it will help prevent boredom.

Senior Lizards

To maintain your lizard's wellbeing, you need to provide ample opportunity for physical activity and mental stimulation. Allow them to engage in natural behaviours by ensuring their enclosure is spacious, and has rocks, branches and other climbing structures. This way they can climb or simply bask in the sun.

Puzzle feeders and objects that encourage foraging will provide them mental stimulation and assist with preventing boredom.

 As our pets enter their golden years, it is important we tailor activities to suit their changing needs and abilities. Generally, we don’t have to do new things or buy new toys, we just need to modify what we are already doing.

Engaging them in activities that are low-impact and mentally stimulating ensures your senior pet will remain active and healthy in their senior years.